While I was pregnant, I did as much reading as I could about babies and having babies and feeding babies and stimulating babies and making babies sleep and babies babies babies, because I wanted to be as prepared as possible. Books, blogs, articles – anything and everything – so by the time Baby J arrived I would know everything I would need to. Breastfeeding issues, sleep schedules, weaning, routines, babywearing, attachment parenting – the list goes on and on.
Of course I knew that having information was only a small part of being a mother, but I also knew I needed to do what I could to allay my natural anxieties; knowledge is power, after all.
Then J arrived and, needless to say, things went pear-shaped. All the information I had seemed conflicting with my actual experience and I realised I had more questions than when I had started reading. So what happened was that all the time I had spent trying to prepare myself to be a better parent actually made me a worse parent because I was in a constant state of panic.
Why wasn’t J sleeping as much as he should? Why was he crying all the time? Why was he awake for so long between sleeps?
I mean, clearly I was doing everything wrong because my baby just did not fit into the mould.
I tried everything in every book that I had read to get him to sleep, to calm him when he was screaming, to deal with his reflux and to ease his stomach problems. I tried:
not swaddling him
feeding him sideways
feeding him lying down
feeding him like a football
feeding him upside down (Just kidding, but I thought about it.)
burping him softly
burping him hard
putting him in his Moses basket drowsy but awake
putting him in his Moses basket wide awake
sitting next to him with a hand on him
sitting next to him without a hand on him
singing (really badly, though, so that may have been the problem)
giving him a dummy
not giving him a dummy
Wine (for me, not for him)
And still, he wouldn’t sleep. He wanted to eat ALL the time but that made him uncomfortable and so he cried all the time (and I cried, oh how I cried). Basically he seemed to be a very unhappy baby while I was a very heartbroken mother.
We carried on like this for quite a few dark, dark weeks (10 to be precise) and I slid further and further into a hole of failed motherhood until one day, baby J woke up a completely new baby*. Because we had been through colic, reflux, insomnia, feeding problems, gas problems, all the problems in the world it seemed, the day he woke up happy and content took me by surprise.
And I patted myself on the back for finally being the mother that I had always thought I would be.
Until it dawned on me: I hadn’t done anything.
The thing is, that annoying thing everyone keeps telling you when you’re wondering what you can do for your baby is true:
this too shall pass
So when (not if) you find yourself wondering what on earth you are doing wrong, take comfort in the fact that you are probably not doing anything at all, and your baby is just being a baby. And they will get bigger and the dark days will become blurry and a little less dark until finally, one day, they will disappear from your mind – or so I’m told, I’m not there yet.
*Obviously this didn’t last long.